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Topography v. Landscape

John Barrell: Paul Sandby, 13 May 2010

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain 
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... he has never seen any Place that affords a Subject equal to the poorest imitations of Gaspar or Claude. Paul Sanby is the only Man of Genius, he believes, who has employ’d his Pencil that Way – Mr G hopes Lord Hardwicke will not mistake his meaning, but if his Lordship wishes to have any thing tolerable of the name of G. the Subject altogether as well ...

Illuminating, horrible etc

Jenny Turner: David Foster Wallace, 14 April 2011

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace 
by David Lipsky.
Broadway, 320 pp., $16.99, 9780307592439
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The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel 
by David Foster Wallace.
Hamish Hamilton, 547 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 241 14480 0
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... In the spring of 2008, shortly after he started reading Infinite Jest, my friend Francis got in touch to say a) he found the book astonishing, everything I’d said it was, one of the greatest literary works of all time; b) but when he got to the ending – 981 pp. body copy, another 96 of small-print endnotes – did I think he was going to think it was worth it? No, I said, the ending’s infuriating, and although the author denied it and I haven’t made a study of the available papers, I still suspect it was to some extent an afterthought, a way of ducking out of a project that, without it, would maybe never have ended at all ...

No Trousers

Claude Rawson, 20 December 1990

The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. VIII: The French Revolution 1790-1794 
edited by L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, March 1990, 0 19 822422 2
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Reflections on the Revolution in France 
by Edmund Burke, edited by J.G.A. Pocock.
Hackett, 236 pp., $5.95, January 1987, 0 87220 020 5
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APhilosophical Enquiry 
by Edmund Burke, edited by Adam Phillips.
Oxford, 173 pp., £4.95, June 1990, 0 19 281807 4
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... joke) with a medallion of the Queen hanging round his neck and positioned over his heart. Philip Francis told Burke the account was ‘pure foppery’. Jefferson said the real-life queen bore little resemblance to ‘the rhapsodies of Burke’. They might or might not have agreed with recent commentators who see Marie Antoinette’s nakedness, like that of ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... Majesty, still less tell her to knock it off. Instead, swallowing his pride, he went to see Sir Claude. In the little garden of his delightful 17th-century grace and favour cottage at Hampton Court Sir Claude Pollington was reading. Actually, he was meant to be reading, but he was dozing over a box of confidential ...

Burying Scott

Marilyn Butler, 7 September 1995

The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Blackwell, 386 pp., £19.99, January 1995, 1 55786 231 1
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... book: his subtitle, which is in fact the series-title of a list of new literary biographies under Claude Rawson’s general editorship. If you want an uncritical biography, Sutherland might say, don’t buy this one but stick to Lockhart, or to some other modern academic biography (such as Edgar Johnson’s two volumes, 1970) which essentially accepts ...


J.I.M. Stewart, 23 October 1986

H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal 
by David Smith.
Yale, 634 pp., £18.50, September 1986, 0 300 03672 8
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... 1935 (at the height of the Depression) the cheque was for £42. 17s. 5d.’ A film starring Claude Rains ‘was a modest hit. The Invisible Man certainly brought in visible funds.’ An earlier biographer, Ritchie Calder, has asserted that Wells, although always capable of warmth in his private relationships, particularly with the young, gained a ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... and Robert Byron. The scholarly version of these explorations is called anthropology, as in Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, Margaret Mead, and many American scholars in receipt of sabbatical leave and Guggenheim fellowships. If you have a sufficiently resourceful mind, and a persuasive style, of course, you can stimulate them by going for a walk ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars, 20 November 2014

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... aristocrats and radicals. Jane Austen, for instance, enjoys no more prominence than her brothers Francis and Charles, both officers in the navy. While Uglow devotes considerable attention to campaigns on sea and land, her primary concern is the rhythm of life on the home front during twenty years of war. The wars became like the vicissitudes of British ...

At the Helm of the World

Pankaj Mishra: Alexander Herzen, 1 June 2017

The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen 
by Aileen Kelly.
Harvard, 582 pp., £31.95, May 2016, 978 0 674 73711 2
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... of Marx’s many targets. And Kelly writes in interesting detail about the influence on Herzen of Francis Bacon and Charles Darwin. But the passion – and torment – that drove Herzen flashes only intermittently in her book. Kelly quotes Tolstoy saying that ‘Herzen awaits his readers in the future. Far above the heads of the present crowd, he transmits ...

Down with Occurrences

Erin Maglaque: Baroque Excess, 3 December 2020

Out of Italy 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Europa, 295 pp., £12.99, July 2019, 978 1 78770 166 3
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... the grounds of the Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, where he was staying at the invitation of Francis I. (Da Vinci had brought three masterpieces with him, including the Mona Lisa.) Braudel also describes the tumultuous life of the Baroque poet Giambattista Marino, compelled to leave his native city of Naples in dramatic circumstances (he had helped his ...

Return of Oedipus

Stephen Bann, 4 March 1982

by Jacques Derrida.
Athlone, 366 pp., £25, December 1981, 0 485 30005 2
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... Jabès, a poetic parallel which has become ever more apparent is the remarkably individual work of Francis Ponge. By the stage of La Verité en Peinture (1978), Derrida quotes freely from Ponge. But the accents of Ponge’s playful, quasi-didactic rhetoric, steadily applied to the investigation of objects and the material world, resonate throughout Derrida’s ...

Deconstructing America

Sheldon Rothblatt, 23 July 1992

Sea Changes: British Emigration and American Literature 
by Stephen Fender.
Cambridge, 400 pp., £40, April 1992, 0 521 41175 0
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... tendency in Britain, as when Dr Johnson ‘reduced’ mountains to ‘pictures’ by using a Claude mirror when climbing. One puzzle in particular Fender explains with ingenuity. Why, especially because of the American propensity to advertise, was it that settlers in their letters home rarely attempted to persuade others to emigrate? The answer he ...


E.S. Turner, 4 September 1986

Monty: The Field-Marshal 1944-1976 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 996 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 241 11838 7
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... light, not least because of his failure to invite his brilliant Chief of Staff, Major-General Sir Francis de Guingand, to share the glory. There are fascinating glimpses of Monty’s spartan tactical headquarters and of his spirited young liaison officers, or ‘gallopers’, who drove through chaos and ruin to bring back intelligence for their early-to-bed ...

Feigning a Relish

Nicholas Penny: One Tate or Two, 15 October 1998

The Tate: A History 
by Frances Spalding.
Tate Gallery, 308 pp., £25, April 1998, 1 85437 231 9
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... was often resented, creating paintings that would be regarded as modern equivalents to the work of Claude, Teniers, Poussin or Cuyp, was a fundamental ambition of artists as varied as Wilkie, Constable and Turner. The latter’s insistence that two of his paintings should hang for ever beside two Claudes in the National Gallery indicates how closely British ...

The Rack, the Rapier, the Ruff and the Fainting Nun

Nicholas Penny: Manet/Velázquez, 10 July 2003

Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting 
by Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre et al.
Yale, 592 pp., £50, March 2003, 0 300 09880 4
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... of black from a print. Certainly his Monk at Prayer (1864-65) recalled Zurbarán’s Saint Francis, then the most famous work by this artist, though Manet knew it only in reproduction since the original had been bought for the National Gallery in London more than a decade before, at Louis-Philippe’s sale. As for The Tragic Actor (1865-66), it is a ...

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